Tales From The Craft Service Table

Wadsworth: And monkey's brains, though popular in Cantonese cuisine, are not often to be found in Washington D.C.

Mr. Green: Is that what we ate?

Clue, 1985

Webster's defines crafty as:

  1. Adept in the use of subtlety and cunning

The film world defines crafty as:

  1. A paradise — apparently envisioned quite differently from region to region — of eclectically mixed food and drink
  2. An excellent place to embarrass yourself by trying to flirt with models that speak zero English.

I've previously described the craft service table as a culinary spectrum ranging from a Trick-or-Treat motherlode to a vegan's wet dream. Phrases like "mouth watering" and "too good to resist" come to mind.

Not always.

The Czech Republic is known for giving the world Franz Kafka, a plethora of beautiful women and towns and villages each boasting a well-preserved castle from the Middle Ages. Their growing film industry is quite notable as well. So despite the allure of The Metamporphis's author, hot chicks and intact citadels, the nature of my visit was business.

We were brought to Prague to shoot a commercial for Italian TV, pedaling the century-and-a-half old aperitif known as Campari. Going into production I had never tasted the drink, but that's beside the point.

There were three days budgeted to film five days worth of work. Knowing this, we decided the best route to finish on schedule would be to employ French Hours. What this means is that we would forego lunch and instead have food passed around throughout the day to fight the anorexic nature of the time-saving sacrifice.

The first problem: Our location, which was one of the aforementioned ancient castles, did not allow food inside.

The second problem: Um... notice how above I neglected to mention the Czech Republic's distinction for cuisine.

So let's review. No formal lunch. No food allowed on the premises. And on top of all of this our only dining options included local fare...

Pig knuckles, some sort of vinegar-cured herring, and blood sausage.

That's what was available on the craft service table, along with some other fish-puff-type things stuffed with cream cheese, strange flavored lollipops, a minimal hodgepodge of bruised fruit and something that vaguely looked like cole slaw. One day they had gray-looking rabbit meat.

I'm all for trying new things. I just got into yoga. I gave in and started watching Parks and Recreation after being staunchly opposed. More topically relevant, sweetbreads have become a huge part of my life since 2010.

But when you're in a foreign land, with a small, leaky bathroom and toilet paper that feels more like a Jackson Pollock canvas than the double-ply I've grown accustomed to, you tread lightly.

Pig knuckles? I get it. Just about every part of the animal has lived up to the hype, from jowl to belly.

Vinegar-cured herring? I'm a huge proponent of pickles and the act of pickling in general when it comes to food.

Blood sausage? I've tried boudin, didn't spit it out. And when my grandmother used to scrape her knuckles while shredding potatoes for her latkes, she gruffly claimed the red drops that trickled down into the mixture gave it flavor.

All in all, the array of options probably wasn't that bad. Still, I lost seven pounds in four days. Seeing the locally hired extras and crewmembers ingest their favorite unidentifiable foodstuffs was nourishment enough for me. I felt well fed.

When one of our actors brought up a plate of blood sausages wrapped in what appeared to be slices of white bread in order to satiate the appetites behind the camera — I was truly appreciative for the stern-looking, spectacled woman who served as the vigilant cop on set. Though I didn't comprehend a single word she spoke, her body language was clear. No food allowed.

Thank you, stern-looking, spectacled woman who served as a vigilant cop on set. You saved me from what surely would have turned into a demonstration of false bravado, resulting in the chewing and swallowing of what I'm still not sure were blood sausages. And this is what I remembered as I celebrated the Fourth of July — the birth of America and the palatable craft service tables offered on every filming location across this great land.

Read Volume 1 of Tales from the Craft Service Table